A typical classroom conversation, or, Yes, yes… we all must make time to fart

Being an English teacher, I use lots of examples from books other than a textbook. I try to pull from books I think my students may have read – lots of LotR (they know the movies – ah well) and Harry Potter (again, ahh well) references, for example – but I also give examples and then quick summaries of books I think they’ll like. I did that today with Dune, and one of my students commented on how many different books I talk about. Which, naturally, spiraled into into reading and then finding the time to read. Much of what I’ve discovered, you see, isn’t that students don’t like reading… they don’t like how long it takes to read a book… the time investment. Here is the abridged and paraphrased conversation:

Student: So how many books a year do you read?

Me: Varies… maybe 20 to 30.

(stunned silence)

Student: How?

Me: Well, first I pour a glass of wine. Then I sit in my favorite chai….

Student: No, no, no… how do you have time?

Me: Time? It’s not like reading is a race. Besides, there’s always time to read.

(silence)
Me: Everyone take out your cell phones…. now… open up the Book application on it.
Student: There’s a book application?

(laughter)

Me: How many books?

(various answers from 1 to 5 or so)

Me: ok… so there’s a place to keep books…. thousands of them! Now… break into groups and take out a sheet of paper. I want you to, as a group, come up with the three best TV shows.

After about 5 minutes, I poll the shows and there are 5 that get listed on the board that almost everyone watches regularly.

Me: ok… how long do those shows last?

Students: an hour.

Me: so… that’s five hours a week you spend watching TV. Relaxing. Enjoying some down time.

Student: Doing homework.

Me: Ahh Multitasking!

Student: And eating.

Me: And eating.

Student in the back: And farting.

(laughter)

Me: Yes, yes… we must all make time to fart. The consequences otherwise would be dire.

(laughter)

Me (looking over the list on the board): Which one’s the best?

(argument – decision – it’s one everyone has watched)

Me: Turn your page over and summarize it as briefly as possible. Not just one episode, the whole show.

(scribble scribble)

Me: ok… pass them up. I’ll take a look at them.

Student: Which one’s your favorite, professor?

Me: No clue. I haven’t seen any of them.

Student: Really?

Me: Think for a sec… what was the question that got us started talking and writing about TV shows during a discussion on poetry?

(no one could remember, which made me laugh – but then someone did)

Student: How you read so much!

Student: Wait… you mean you don’t watch TV?

Me: Miss *********, I don’t own a TV.

(silence)

Me: Reading’s a choice, folks. Those five hours in front of the tv each week? You summarize those shows and I’ll find you books that are better. Better stories, better characters, better love scenes and fight scenes. But even if you still want to watch TV, with your phones and tablets and laptops and regular old-fashioned books, not having time isn’t an excuse anymore. Hell, if, instead of sending text messages, you read 4 or 5 pages on your phone every time you sat on the can, you’d finish about a book a month. I have about 400 books on my phone. I’ve read about 9 of ’em sittin’ on the toilet.

(laughter)

So your question shouldn’t be “How do you find the time to read?” Instead, it should be, “What should I read next?”

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